Tag: family communications plan

Totally unexpected? Not!

explosion and fire in urban setting
OMG! What’s happening in Ukraine???

This past year we’ve seen image after image of people emerging from the debris after tornados, trapped in long lines of cars to avoid a hurricane, escaping from a burning building in the midst of alarms and smoke. Were all these disasters totally unexpected? No!

Today, we are seeing more disaster images – people trying to escape sudden danger in Ukraine. And yet, that situation wasn’t totally unexpected, either. Let’s take a look.

The first images I saw yesterday were of Ukrainians who had rushed into underground subway stations to avoid explosions.

They were jammed in but seemed warm enough, and calm. Still, I didn’t see any supplies that would keep them comfortable for hours. Did you have the same questions I do?

  • Do they have anything to eat?
  • What about water?
  • What about babies with no formula?
  • How were hundreds of people able to use the toilet?
  • Did they have any idea of what was going on above ground?

Today, the next day, the danger is no longer totally unexpected. People are taking action to protect themselves.

Today the news shows people fleeing Ukraine for neighboring countries. Some are walking across the border, abandoning household and pets “just to get somewhere safe!” Some are running out of gas in long lines of cars stretched across the countryside. Others, deeper inland in Ukraine, are crowding onto train station platforms, hoping to get a place on an outbound train.

Today, most of these people have a suitcase or backpack. But what about their future?

  • How long will it take for them to get across the border?
  • What will happen when they arrive?
  • Where will they go? Or where will they end up?
  • What about family members who have gotten separated?

I have questions about the people we don’t see in the news.

Those left behind. Those who are unable to walk or who have no money for trains or simply no place to go to. How are they faring now? What will happen to them in coming days?

Most of these questions remain unanswered as of right now. But the message for this Advisory is . . .

Emergencies aren’t always “natural disasters.” And they seldom are totally unexpected.

What’s going on today in Europe is a good reminder that there are many, many events that can result in emergencies. (In our business books we list 97 different threats!) But few of them should be totally unexpected.

It’s also a good idea to remember that many emergencies require the same or a very similar immediate response.

Of course, we can’t possibly be prepared for everything, but we can surely be prepared for an immediate response to whatever hits.

Here at Emergency Plan Guide we’ve examined that immediate response many times. A quick summary:

  1. The more we pay attention – to the weather, the news, political developments, etc. – the more likely we’ll have time to pack up some essentials in case things come apart. Having a Go-Bag already packed keeps you from being one of the victims that ends up stuffing some clothes into a pillowcase or plastic bag and having to make do with that!
  2. Having a family plan for re-connecting during or after an emergency can keep family members focused on immediate needs instead of spending valuable time worrying.
  3. Building a store of essential emergency supplies means that empty shelves in stores won’t terrify you. (We’ve heard that stores in Kyiv are already empty . . .) Supplies need to include non-perishable food, water, warm clothing, lighting, prescriptions, list of emergency contacts.
  4. If you have imagined and talked over how you might respond to expected emergencies – power outage, storm, riot, nuclear accident, hazardous chemical spill, whatever – you’ll have more confidence that you’ll be able to respond. Practicing with your basic emergency tools – radio, lantern, cookstove – will add more confidence. So will having a tank full of gas.
  5. Should you take some basic preparedness actions now?

Mindset makes all the difference to effective preparedness.

The more Joe and I are active in the world of emergency preparedness and response, the more importance we give to mindset or attitude! What a huge difference between a wild-eyed “What shall we do???” and a firm “We can handle this!” 

Emergencies are part of life, to be expected. When they are anticipated, you’ll be far more able to get through them without them turning into a disaster.

Let’s treat the current situation in Ukraine as a valuable reminder of preparedness essentials.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. I know you know, but if this is a good time for a review, don’t forget our mini-series booklets.  They’re laid out with questions and answers. Easy to read, easy to get ideas from. Here are a few that might be particularly helpful for this review:

Pre-Disaster Plan. Number 1 in our series because it deals with the toughest challenge of all – getting started on a plan. Major emphasis on coping with disaster when you or other family members are not at home. https://amzn.to/3aEswjk

Emergency Cash. How much cash do you need to shelter in place? To evacuate by car or train? Where to get cash/money and how to store it? https://amzn.to/2VNLm2X

Custom Go-Bags. Able to take you and your family through the first 3 days of an emergency – as long as the bags are customized AND ready to be grabbed. https://amzn.to/2vEmrow

There are 10 more titles in the series. You can see them all here.

Home Base – The Hub of Your Family Communications Plan


In a true emergency, you may have no easy way to communicate.

Home Base Hub of Family ommunica

In a widespread or severe emergency we know that phone communications may be spotty, at best.

An earthquake may cut cables and topple cell towers. A bad storm or hurricane may not cut underground cables, but it can damage all above-ground services including electricity.

For sure, in an extended power outage, even if distant towers and/or satellites are still functioning properly, cell phones and computers will eventually run out of battery. (Yes, yes, if you have solar panels, you may be able to recharge your devices.)

Being cut off from family members is terrifying.

Naturally, you and they imagine the worst. You will be desperate to get in touch.

When local phone service is out, what’s your best course of action?

Reach out to your family’s “Home Base.”

Trying to make a local phone call, whether via landline or cell, may be impossible. However, an outbound long-distance call or text may get through!

This is why we recommend that you talk things over with your family and come up with an out-of-state person who is willing to serve as your “Home Base” – the one place that every family member knows about and tries to contact as soon as possible.

Qualifications for your “Home Base” contact.

Naturally, this needs to be a person you trust. In addition, is your Home Base contact . . .

  • Willing to answer the phone day or night?
  • Able to take down and forward complete messages from people who may be nervous or even injured?
  • Able to receive TEXT messages (cell phone) and EMAIL messages (computer) as well as phone messages?

Remember, family members may be trying to send messages themselves, or they may be asking others (Red Cross, medical personnel, school employees, colleagues, First Responders) to communicate on their behalf. Those other people may have any one of a variety of communications devices.

Your job: Know your family’s Home Base phone number.

In a true emergency, you won’t be able to check your phone contacts on your cell phone or computer. You may not have your address book.

Your children will be in this same situation.

The only thing you can count on is an emergency listing that you carry in your wallet (assuming it hasn’t been lost or ruined) or a number that you have memorized.

Protect your family!

Take the time, as a family, to discuss who your Home Base contact should be, and get their agreement. Discuss safe places you could go if you can’t go home.

Talk about the importance of confidentiality for this information.

Most important of all, make sure all family members memorize the Home Base phone number!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Texting While Driving Can Kill You. Texting Can Also Save Your Life.

Texting can save your life

By now, you have heard that in an emergency, you may be able to get a text message through even when phones are down or overwhelmed.

Do you know how to send a text message?

This brief Advisory is for those parents and grand-parents who really haven’t taken the time to learn how to text, even though texting is going on all around them.

Start with a cell phone.

Just about any cell phone (with enough battery power) can send a text message to another cell phone. You don’t have to be on the same network or have the same phone company.

For this exercise, pretend your personal phone has disappeared. A kind stranger offers to let you use her phone to call your family.

Do you know the phone number of the cell phone you want to send the text to?

This isn’t your phone, so you have no numbers stored. Your emergency number has to be a number you know by heart or have written down!

First choice: the number of your emergency, out-of-town contact person, your “Home Base.” (More on that, below.)

Prepare the message.

  • Find the “messages” icon on the phone. It may look like the blue square or the green bubble on the image above. Tap it. (If you are really interested in the difference between the blue square and the green bubble, you can find out more here. I find it confusing!)
  • What comes up next will depend. What you’re looking for is a little square with a pencil in it – that’s the “write” icon. Tap that icon to bring up the message screen.
  • In the “To” area, type the phone number including area code. (You can toggle between ABC and 123 to get the keys you need.) No need for any punctuation.
  • In the “Message” area, type your message. Be sure you say WHO you are (It’s not your phone, remember?), WHERE you are, HOW you are, and how you can be reached. Limit your text to 160 characters. (To erase, hit the back arrow.)

Send the message.

Hit the “send” button. You’ve done it! Most phones will tell you that the message has been “delivered.”

Of course, there are all kinds of clever twists and turns to texting, but you don’t need any of them now. You just want to be able to send a simple message!

My recommendation? Find a friend (child? grandchild?) who texts often and get him to send a few back and forth with you, so you become comfortable with how it all works.

You may find out, like I did, that it’s fun and convenient! No texting while driving, though . . .

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. Remember that “Home Base” comment, above?

Family Communications Plan

If you didn’t immediately know what number to call, you need our new Emergency Plan Guide worksheet, called Family Communications Plan. It’s 2 simple pages that explain the Home Base concept, and give you a place to fill in the blanks. 

Stocking Stuffers for the Whole Family


Traffic was CRAAZY today, and it’s not even Thanksgiving! Everywhere the news is about early shopping (plus some football games, of course).

If you’re ramping up for some holiday shopping of your own, I’d like to suggest the following . . .

Emergency survival kit items

“Makin’ a list . . .”

Small, very cool, dual-purpose gifts

By which I mean, gifts that are fun to receive and even to play with, but which have a much more lasting value because they become important items for a survival kit!

Here are seven such treasures, each under $25

If you need a shopping list, just print out this page!  If you want to shop (which I recommend!), click on the links below each item description.

Clicking the links will take you to Amazon, where you can compare and combine items for the best possible pricing plus free shipping. Just so you know, if you buy from Amazon, we may receive a small commission.  It doesn’t change the price you pay.

 *  Headlamp – Of course you have a flashlight in every car and hopefully one in every room of the house. And, we hope, with at least 200 lumens. Now, consider how handy a HEADLAMP will be when both arms are full of blankets, children, toys, or other supplies!

LE LED Headlamp, 18 White LED and 2 Red LED, 4 Brightness Level Choice, LED Headlamps, 3 AAA Batteries Included

*  Magnesium lighter – Hold a fire-lighting contest for all your teens on Christmas Day. This 3-pack of magnesium lighters gives you the chance to compete – and learn an essential skill!

The Friendly Swede Magnesium Emergency Fire Starter Blocks (3 Pack), Black

*  Paracord bracelet – Totally cool, totally comfortable, and very handy in an emergency, these bracelets contain 17 ft. of strong cord and come in just about any color you – or family members – could want! This link is to a braid-it-yourself kit, which would be a great holiday activity. Or pick out an already-made one.

Paracord Planet 550lb Type III Paracord Combo Crafting Kits with Buckles (ZOMBIE)

*  Tin of hard candies – Chocolate melts, caramels ooze and stick, mints crumble. But hard candies withstand all sorts of weather and when you need a pick-me-up in an emergency – or on the long drive home after the holidays! – this will do the trick. Top quality, top flavor.

Cavendish And Harvey Candy (3 Pack) Fruit Hard Candy Tin 5.3 Ounces Imported German Candy (Orange Drops)

*  Swiss Army Knife, the classic – We all love our Swiss Army knives. Whether you get this simple, efficient one or a giant, every-tool-in-the-toolbox version, it will be a welcome gift. And a great addition to a survival kit.

Victorinox Swiss Army Camper II Folding Camping Knives, Red, 91mm

*  Walkie-Talkies — Favorites of children, parents and CERT members, these handy radios work for fun games around the house, at the mall for keeping track of the family, and in an emergency when all other phones are out!  (We have several pairs, with pre-arranged channels in case we are separated.) (As you shop, consider the range figures as approximations only, achieved under “optimal conditions!”)

Midland LXT118 22-Channel GMRS with 18-Mile Range, E Vox, and Channel Scan (Pair)

*  Water Bottle with Built-In Filter This may not fit in your traditional Christmas stocking, so add it after everything else has been opened. We know water is essential, but bottled water gets old, and is really heavy. What you CAN pack so it will always be ready is a reusable water bottle with built-in filter.

LifeStraw Go Water Bottle with Integrated 1000-Liter LifeStraw Filter

Now, if you’re VERY detail oriented . . .

. . . you will have compared this list with the photo and you will have discovered two discrepancies. First, the list contains a water filter bottle that isn’t shown. (Too big to fit in the sock, and too big to fit in the picture!) and Second, the image shows a radio that’s not listed.  This happens to be one of our favorites, so I included it because I do as often as I can.  Find out more here on our radio review page.

Do you have recommendations we can add to our list of “Favorite Survival Kit Goodies Under $25?”  Send them along!


Your Emergency Plan Guide team


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Personal Emergency Communications – Staying In Touch After A Disaster


Personal Emergency Communications

New book!

We’ve been focusing lately on emergency communications for small businesses, knowing that after a disaster, a business will need to be in touch with employee families, with customers and, of course, with employees that may be in distant offices, on the road, etc.

We even put together three short videos for business. You can find out more about them here on the site: https://emergencyplanguide.org/work/Resilient-Business-Videos.

But wait, there’s more on emergency communications!

As you can imagine, the more expert we become about any given technology, the more there is to know! In the spirit of continual learning, Joe picked up a book today and I’d like to recommend it to you.

“Personal Emergency Communications, by Andrew Baze”

The subtitle of this book is “Staying in Touch Post-Disaster: Technology, Gear and Planning.” You’ll find chapters on each. Depending on your level of sophistication and your interest, you may want to skip a couple of them, but the basics are all here.

Baze starts – and finishes – with these four questions.

1. How will you contact anyone if your landline, cell phone and internet connection don’t work?
2. Will you be able to talk with family and friends after a serious emergency or disaster?
3. Do you have a communications section in your personal or family emergency plan?
4. Do you even have a family emergency plan?

By the end of the book, if you take action as Baze recommends, you’ll be far closer to answering these questions with a “Yes.”

Some highlights from the book.

Some of what you’ll read has been covered several times in Emergency Plan Guide Advisories. But there are some areas we haven’t really spent time on, such as the use of CB radios and Personal Locator Beacons. (You can expect more from us on both of these!) And Baze captures your attention with some very dramatic stories.

We were particularly struck by Baze’s recommendations for what he calls “Your Calling Clock.” That’s a plan for WHEN to try to reach others in an emergency, such as from 5 minutes before to 10 minutes past the hour. His sample Calling Clock plans are really good ones, particularly for a family that is likely to be spread out when disaster hits.

You can get the book from Amazon by clicking the link below. It’s $10.79 as a softbound, and less than $4 in the Kindle version. (I always prefer to have the book in my hands so I can highlight or underline and flag certain pages.)

Personal Emergency Communications: Staying in Touch Post-Disaster: Technology, Gear and Planning

Let us know your thoughts about it!

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team